Don't Shut Up: Why Teachers Must Defend the First Amendment in Secondary Schools
James R Moore
Cleveland State University
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First Amendment, academic freedom censorship, social studies, democracy

How to Cite

Moore, J. (2018). Don’t Shut Up: Why Teachers Must Defend the First Amendment in Secondary Schools. Journal of Culture and Values in Education, 1(2), 23-41.



Several recent judicial decisions and numerous reports from scholars, educators, legal experts, journalists, and advocacy groups suggest that the First Amendment protection of freedom of expression is being unconstitutionally abridged in American universities and secondary schools. Freedom of expression for university and secondary school students is essential to securing individual rights, protecting liberty, enhancing civic participation, and is a safeguard against government infringement on freedom of thought and expression. The First Amendment, along with other rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is the crucial underpinning of a pluralistic democracy. However, many universities and secondary schools have sought to restrict freedom of expression by establishing speech codes, safe zones, and institutional policies that prohibit and punish speech that is deemed controversial, hateful, radical, or offensive. These speech codes are designed to foster tolerance, respect, and sensitivity for individuals and groups; while this is a worthy goal, it must be achieved without violating the First Amendment. Teachers must resist unconstitutional attempts at censorship and instruct their students that the primary purpose of the First Amendment is to protect controversial, offensive, and radical speech. This article will examine the attacks on free speech and discuss how teachers can defend the First Amendment.

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